“Concetto Spaziale, Attese”
Watercolour on canvas
26 x 19 cm
Signed l. Fontana and with title on verso.
Sotheby’s “Contemporary Art”, London 27 June 1996, lot. no. 175.
Private collection, Sweden (acquired from the above).
In the early days of the last century, Picasso and Malevich both independently came up with a sensational idea: A canvas is no place for illusions, it simply is what it is, and this means that art and the artist are free, for all eternity. It has no ties to reality, but it does represent an absolute zero of sorts–or a virginal starting point–to its creator. Fifty years later, the Italian made a radical addition to–or rather, assault on–their idea. The canvas may be just a canvas, but no human being, not even an artist, can ever be fully free. With a brutal slash of a scalpel, he slices up the thing that was previously considered untouchable. In the aftermath of the Second World War, particularly in Milan, where his studio had been razed to the ground, this became the only feasible way out for Fontana. Human existence depends on a conditional brand of freedom, littered with cuts that reach into the darkness. Concetto spaziale, i.e., the concept of space. Humankind had proven to be capable of wonders when it came to beauty and technological innovation, but our progress is ruthless, beautiful, and self-destructive.
The painting glows fiery red, and has a single, vertical cut. A dark, vibrating note from a stringed instrument lingers on, its wavelength resounding off into the depths of eternity. The format of the work is modest, but its ambitions are overwhelming. The year after he executed this painting, he was about to have his first exhibition in the US, at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York. His first museum exhibition in the USA was at the Walker Art Center in 1966. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of his passing. Fontana’s works are included in some of the finest museum collections in the world.
Lucio Fontana was born in Argentina in 1899, and passed on in 1968, one year before man first landed on the moon. However, he was around to experience the first successful orbit of the Earth by a manned craft, which took 90 minutes to complete. Yuri Gagarin’s orbital journey made a great impression, of course.